Editorials

RT seeks a patch but needs a big fix

Sacramento Regional Transit staff is urging a 20 percent fare increase, the first since 2009.
Sacramento Regional Transit staff is urging a 20 percent fare increase, the first since 2009. Sacramento Bee file

Searching for a way out of its financial predicament, Sacramento Regional Transit likely will be asking riders for a fare increase of as much as 20 percent.

We understand the impulse. Public transportation must be improved across the Sacramento region. But any fare increase would be a patch, not a solution, for the more fundamental issue: The public transportation system fails the vast majority of residents.

Sacramento Regional Transit is in a hole. If nothing happens, the staff reports, the system’s total estimated loss would approach $20 million during the next five years. Rating agencies have downgraded it. That adds to the interest cost on the authority’s short-term borrowing.

To qualify for federal and state subsidies, transportation agencies are expected, reasonably, to generate 23 percent of revenue from fares. Sacramento RT fares account for 21 percent, and ridership is stagnant at best.

The 20 percent fee hike would be the first since 2009, The Bee’s Tony Bizjak reported last week. An all-day pass would rise to $7.50 from the current $6 ticket. The board is to vote on the matter in March.

Any increase would cause pain for low-income riders and annoy all regular riders. The additional money would be used to keep the system afloat, not for route expansion or improvements. But the goal shouldn’t be to merely tread water, not if we are going to get serious about reducing greenhouse gases.

The Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce hopes to convene leaders of the region’s 13 transportation districts, no small undertaking. Goals include improved coordination. Consolidation should be part of the discussion as leaders look to increase efficiency.

A Regional Transit fare increase may help a little, but it won’t solve the broader issue of how to get commuters out of their cars and into what must be safe, reliable, clean and comfortable buses and light rail cars. Though, while they’re at it, maybe they could figure out a way to get us to the airport and home without adding 90 minutes to our already grueling days.

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